We decided we needed some Winter Sunshine. We were extremely lucky setting off when we did because England was covered in snow a few days after we left (and seemed to last for weeks).
We stayed for one night in Warwickshire and one night near Portsmouth before catching the early morning ferry to Santander. Neither of the first 2 sites had any facilities which is where the Elddis caravan is so well equipped with the toilet and fab shower!
We stayed 2 nights in Madrid and then the snow followed us through Spain on our way to Almeria. At each junction on the motorways in Spain snow ploughs were ‘at the ready’.
It was amazing to see on the news when we got to sunny Almeria that half of Spain was covered in snow! We had 3 nights in Almeria where the winds were very strong, and the weather forecast for where we had planned to go (down to Gibraltar and onto Portugal) was not good for the foreseeable future.
We had planned to go to Sierra Nevada ski region but the forecast was heavy snow for the next 10 days and we did not want to risk taking the caravan up into the mountains. Jane was sickened because she had taken her skis and ski boots in the hope she might ski and share her previous skiing experiences with Steve.
We therefore changed our plans and headed to Altea (just outside Benidorm), then on to Oliva where we had a restful 8 days.
The few days in Altea was followed by a relatively short journey to Devesa Gardens which is about half an hour’s bus ride from Valencia. It was perfectly situated to catch the bus into Valencia for only 1 euro 60 cents each way. Valencia is a fab city and there was a festival on while we were there so lots of fireworks.
We went to Valencia twice on the bus. After 5 nights we moved to La Torres del Sol which is on the Costa Dorada coastline. It was a relatively easy 3.5 hour journey to get to the site although we travelled on the AP7 motorway which cost us 23 euros in tolls. The site is within 10 minutes’ drive to the train station where we caught the train to Barcelona which is a great train journey along the coast.
After 8 nights on the Costa Dorada we had bottom lips as we started to head home having one night in Zaragoza, one night in Logrono and 2 nights in Santander before catching the ferry from Santander to Plymouth. The journey in England was broken by a stop-off near Bath where the Elddis caravan came into its own as we did not have electric and being able to use gas instead of electric for everything was a godsend.
We travelled over a thousand miles, over mountains and in windy conditions etc and the caravan towed really well. We have a diesel car and would recommend buying the more expensive diesel when abroad as it improved the performance of the car. However, the cost of the expensive diesel in Spain is still a lot cheaper than the cost of diesel in the UK.
Manor Farm, Southam, Warwickshire – 1 night on route to the south coast. The site is lovely and holds 6 caravans. It is a working farm with great views over the countryside. There are no amenities but there is a fabulous pub which serves food half a mile away with a very welcoming log fire. There is also a fish and chip shop in the village.
Scots Haven, Portsmouth – 1 night. We had to be at the ferry terminal at 7.15 am so wanted to stay reasonably close to the ferry port. The warden was very helpful and accommodating allowing us to keep the caravan hooked up to help with the early morning get up for the ferry. It is 25 minutes’ drive to the Portsmouth ferry port. The site is in a very nice location (no toilet facilities). It is very useful for a stop off for the Portsmouth ferry.
Ferry from Portsmouth 0845 to Santander arriving at 1615 (30-hour crossing) – We went on the economy ferry which meant our car and Caravan were open to the elements. There is no entertainment but was fine for our requirements. There is a bar, food and easy to find nice cabin. It was a good crossing – Jane even managed to eat 2 meals on board which were both fabulous!
Campingred Monte Holiday, Madrid - 2 nights. We drove for about 5 hours on good roads to north of Madrid. The site was very quiet while we were there, but we would imagine in Summer it would be very busy. There are fab play areas for children of all ages although they were closed while we were there. There site is in the midst of beautiful snow covered mountains. The facilities were good and warm with underfloor heating. We were on a super pitch which was easy to park on with our own water supply. The reception staff were pleasant and fresh bread (very reasonably priced) could be ordered daily. It was an ideal stop off for anyone heading to the south coast of Spain.
Camping Los Escullos, Almeria – We had a very long 9-hour drive to Almeria (probably too long a drive although we would have got stuck in snow if we hadn’t done the journey in one). There are very good road instructions within 6 miles of the site to get there. Los Escullos is a big site but clean and plenty of things to do – swimming pool, tennis, bar, restaurant, fresh bread, well stocked shop. Some of the pitches could be difficult to access with a large vehicle/caravan without a mover. It is about a mile walk to the beach and there are 3 lovely beaches a short drive away which are also close to a famous film location. The toilet/shower facilities are clean. The site was fairly busy even at the end of February. There was music entertainment in the restaurant/bar on Thursday evening which was very enjoyable.
Santa Clara campsite, Altea. It was a 215 mile journey to the Santa Clara caravan site. We did not find the site easy to find and it was even worse trying to get the caravan onto and off the site due to a very tight entrance. The pitches are very small too which was disappointing. The showers have hot and powerful water although they are small and nowhere to put toilet bag/clothes etc. A 2 pin euro plug is required. It was a short walk to the front at Altea and a pleasant walk on the front where there is a harbour and café/restaurants. There is a fab pub in Altea called the Columbus which is designed like a ship and the décor has great attention to detail. We had planned to stay on the site for 3 nights but decided to move on after 2 nights. Don’t attempt to go on this site unless you have a mover. We were charged more for cash than it said on-line but the on-line system was not working. It is also worth noting that there was nowhere to park our car. The site is within walking distance of the tram to Benidorm or Dernia. We bought a return ticket to Benidorm for 2 for less than 6 euros and it takes around 15 minutes to get to there.
Eurocamping Oliva, Oliva. We arrived at Oliva within the hour of leaving Altea. It was a short easy journey on the motorway (3.85 euros and worth it). Eurocamping Oliva is based on a lovely beach which is at least 5 miles long. We parked the Caravan 100 strides from the beach. It was a fairly busy site even at the beginning of March. The facilities are fine although a lack of storage space when having a shower. There is a supermarket on site selling fresh bread etc. There is also a restaurant/bar which was open from lunchtime until early evening. We had a paella in the restaurant which was very good and reasonably priced. We drove to Denia on the first day where there is a harbour and shops. Although the campsite is relatively busy all the nearby accommodation is almost deserted in March. We walked to the golf course which Seve Ballesteros designed and found one bar open. The golf course is fairly level and looked good. We would recommend this site. We planned to stay 4 nights but enjoyed 8 nights there.
Devesa Gardens – Is a site about an hours’ journey from Oliva. The pitches are a good size and relatively easy to park on. The very helpful reception staff spoke good English. The toilet and shower facilities and laundry facilities are fabulous. The shower blocks are centrally heated which was great in March. The campsite is ideal for families – there is a small farm, lovely playground, pony/horse riding, outdoor pool with slides. There is a restaurant/bar and well stocked supermarket on site. The bus into Valencia stops outside the campsite. We caught the number 25 bus into Valencia for 1.60 euros each. It is a beautiful city with interesting buildings dating back to the 12th/13th century. There was a festival on while we were there with extremely loud fireworks being set off daily at 2 pm. There must have been around 200,000 people watching and it was a great atmosphere. After the display the roads were clear of rubbish and debris within 20 minutes. On the way into Valencia we passed the modern buildings which are spectacular. When we arrived in the centre of Valencia we went to the Tourist Information Office which was well worth going to because the helpful staff pointed us in the right direction to see as much as we could whilst we were there. We enjoyed Valencia so much we had another day there during our 5 nights at Devesa Gardens.
Costa Dorada – La Torre del Sol. It was a relatively easy 3.5 hours journey (but we did pay 23 euros to go on the motorway which made the journey quiet and easy). This big site is perfectly positioned, all touring pitches within 150 yards of a lovely private beach. There is something for everyone at La Torre del Sol but ideal for families. There are well cared for gardens, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi, yoga, Zumba, pub, bar terrace, restaurant, pizza restaurant, outdoor swimming pools, play areas for children, gym, cinema, mini club, and a well-stocked and reasonably priced supermarket. There is a bar/restaurant at the entrance to the site which is good. Not all pitches will be easy to park up on due to trees but there are plenty of pitches. It is not suitable for large outfits even though the pitch size is reasonable. There are lots of bungalows and Vacansoleil tents. The train runs through the site but it was not a problem to us. We had only planned to stay 4 or 5 nights but stayed for 8. We visited local places by car and caught the train to Barcelona from Cambrills (around 17 euros return) which is about 10 minutes’ drive away. The train to Barcelona is a good journey (1.5 hours) all along the coastline. In Barcelona we went on the Tourist Bus but did not manage to see everything in one day. There is also a local bus service outside the campsite which we did not use. Reus airport is only about 25 minutes’ drive away. I would love to return with the family as there is something for everyone, although we were reliably informed that the first 2 weeks in August 10,000 people are on the site and queues for the showers. Apparently June and September are the best times to go. Wifi cost 15 euros for a week.
Zaragoza Municipal Site – Not an easy site to find even though there are plenty of road signs. The pitch sizes are reasonable and easy to park on. The showers and toilets are warm although no space for belongings. There is a nice bar/swimming pool area. We would recommend this site as an ideal stop off on route to or from Santander but it may be worth having a couple of nights on the site to see the area.
Camping La Playa, Logrono – Very disappointed with this site – the pitches are really small (we suspect the pitch sizes have been halved from what they were originally), it is expensive (33 euros for one night which is 50% more expensive than the Zaragoza site). Some of the pitches have tight access unless you have a mover. Toilets OK but showers very disappointing because the men’s shower block was closed and, in the morning, the only showers available were cold (not even luke warm). We would not recommend this site.
Playa Joyel, Noja - Is positioned approximately half an hour drive to the Santander ferry. We have been on this site before and would recommend. The site pitches are good although a mover would help if the site is full. It has direct access to 2 beautiful and interesting beaches. There is an outdoor swimming pool, supermarket, bar, café, laundry facilities etc. The shower blocks are kept really clean with hot showers. We would recommend anyone using the Santander ferry to have at least a couple of nights on this site, especially if you like beaches.
Santander to Plymouth crossing – Unfortunately the sea was very rough, so Jane spent most of her time in bed with no food until a couple of hours before landing in Plymouth.
The Duke Inn near Bath – Due to the bad weather in England we decided to park in the car park of the pub rather than on the grass site. The landlord of the pub was really helpful advising us of the conditions a few days before we arrived. The pub is very nice and in a pleasant location (although there is a bit of road noise). The pub toilet facilities can be used.